Legends of the Fall

I was fortunate enough to recently spend the better part of a week in the mountains of North Georgia with a group of journalists assembled from around the country. Our primary purpose was to get out and enjoy the backroads and wooded wilderness in a handful of Jeeps. And on this particular occasion the timing couldn’t have been better.

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Folks with an advanced level of knowledge can advise you on the virtues of the yearly procession of fall that they call the autumnal equinox. In the south, the event is usually marked by cooler temperatures and a welcomed reprieve from an endless cycle of grass-cutting and yard watering.

The “first day of fall”, as we call it, signifies what I would have to say is my favorite time of year. Besides the cooler weather, fall is a time for the spectacle of golden hues that adorn the trees just before they shed their foliage entirely for the winter. It’s a time for brewing up some homemade chili and for high school football on a Friday night. Best of all, it’s a time for Jeeps.

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This year, fall’s entrance has been marked by unusually warm temperatures. Certainly warmer than we are normally accustomed to in the south. But that doesn’t change the fact that fall is the perfect time to get out and enjoy your Jeep.

While I am a firm believer that Jeeps were meant to be driven without doors, I’m not usually one to set out for a drive without some sort of overhead cover. At the very least, a bikini top or sunshade to keep the scorching rays off of my head is how I’m prone to roll. However, once fall has made its entry, I find that running with no top at all is the ideal remedy for whatever ails you. Besides, you don’t need anything between you and the pageantry of changing leaves; not to mention those clear, starlit nights. But take the time to breathe it in…because in a few short weeks, winter will be here and such deep breaths will be much less enjoyable. And those Jeeps will be weighted down with doors and tops and heaters on full-blast. It is then that you will yearn for this day.

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So get out there and enjoy your Jeep and all the beauty that autumn brings us. There is plenty to see and experience and the legendary Jeep is the perfect place for you to take it all in. OlllllllO

A red Jeep Wrangler drives toward Cottonwood Pass through bright fall aspen trees.

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My Retrospective Look at Toledo Trek 2018

It was many months back, early spring of 2018, that I forged the idea in my rat’s nest-of-a-brain to take my 25-year old Wrangler YJ and set a course northward. To drive to the land long-revered as the birthplace of the Jeep- Toledo, Ohio.

Looking back, I was a bit distressed that my old Jeep might not be up to the chore. She has been known to consume a little oil, which is not in any way uncommon for a Jeep. It’s not been assigned a quart of oil per gallon of gas ratio as of yet, so all is good. I will note also that, after years of dedicated efforts, I can proudly declare that the old 4-liter doesn’t leak oil, in any measurable quantity, at all.

All Photos Courtesy of Evan Coolidge

All Photos Courtesy of Evan Coolidge

So what was I really worried about? My antique Jeep, with its ostracizing rectangular headlights, seemed to make the 1,300 mile jaunt with no real struggles at all. So why would I be, in any way, surprised? She has been hauling my cumbersome structure to & from work faithfully every day for what seems like forever. So I can’t say that I am the least bit surprised. I do find myself cherishing a newfound sense of pride that I hadn’t held before…proud, but not surprised.

What I do find a bit surprising is how much I enjoyed my visit to Toledo. I had heard from more than a couple people how degraded and destitute the city had become. How the city streets were lined with shops that had been boarded-up long ago and either moved on or folded completely. While this perception is not untrue by any means, I can’t help but think that Toledo is a city in need of a second chance.

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To be fair, when you pack legions of Jeeps into one town, I’m probably gonna fall slightly head-over-heels for it. I can’t really help it. Toledo loves the Jeep and she wears her love for it right out on her sleeve for everyone to see. Having the city be completely overrun with Jeeps, if only for a weekend, seemed much like some kind of homecoming. Like all the kids who were born here, had grown up and moved on, all agreed to come back to Grammys house for a reunion. To share a meal, to play on the lawn and show how much they’ve achieved over the years.

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There is no discounting the notion that the Jeep and its loyal followers are more than just a community; they are indeed a family. But the attraction of the city of Toledo, at least for me, goes far beyond its relevance in the history of our beloved Jeep. It’s like the city, with its endless array of aging architecture, symbolizes a way of life that is seemingly nonexistent anymore. The city is romantic. It is historic and it is charming. The fact that time left Toledo behind was no fault of the city at all.

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The Toledo Jeep Fest was originated as a celebration of Jeep’s 75th anniversary, back in 2016, with the plan of it becoming a biennial event, or happening every other year. With such overwhelming success, rumors are adrift that the city of Toledo might try having the show every year. With such a swell of enthusiasm over the Jeep brand and the recurring boost to the local economy that an annual show would provide, I can’t help but dream of the possibility that the town that built Jeep might someday become the town that Jeep rebuilt. I, for one, will anxiously await the opportunity to relive my trek to Toledo once again. After all…my old Jeep can make it, no problem. OlllllllO

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Space-Age Polymers and Advanced Technology Makes for Instant Fun – Just Add Water!!!

I believe that it is written, somewhere deep within the yellowed pages of an old Jeep owner’s manual, that you have not officially achieved full-fledged Jeep ownership status until you have been baptized into the Jeep church. Don’t get me wrong…despite the name this isn’t a religious ceremony of any sort. It doesn’t require a priest and is not likely to be followed by a reception, complete with little finger sandwiches, fruit punch or a cake. This ‘baptism’ is one of deep water, of pouring rain and probably of mud. Sure, it tends to be a messy ordeal but it always washes off and things dry out long before the memory ever fades.

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I can’t even recall the first time it happened to me, or begin to count the number of times that followed. What I can easily recall is that some of the best times I’ve had in my Jeep have been when things are NOT going the way they should. I could go as far as to say, with reasonable certainty that I’ve been set up. Jeep made plenty of allowances in their design to allow for the unexpected and undesirable to happen. The roof is configured to come off the vehicle entirely, as well as the doors, which both seem pretty suspect to me. There are even plugs in the floor that, when removed, allow for water to drain out of the cab, although the diameter of the drain holes are much too small to keep up with the water flow demand so your ankles will usually remain completely submerged in a heavy downpour. It’s like Jeep knew what kind of trouble Jeep owners were likely to get into and they wanted to make sure we were equipped to handle it and make a full recovery.

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My first ‘baptism’ was innocent enough. It was a sunny spring morning in Georgia and I opted to give my daily driver wheels the day off, choosing to enjoy a sun-soaked trek in to the office in the Jeep. The fresh aroma of budding trees triggered by winters end, accompanied by soft, cool breezes was just the right way in which to start your day and an even better way to end it. Mother nature, however, was hard at work in the background, enacting plans to make sure those blossoming trees had ample water- a plan she would put into full action about the time I began my homeward jaunt. As a steady stream of water trickled from my interior rearview mirror, as though a water faucet had been left on, it occurred to me that a bikini top was probably a well-chosen name for a product that basically guarantees that you are going to get wet. My thoughts then shifted to relative gravity of the situation that unfolded around me as my vehicles entire interior electrical system was being exposed to the one element of nature that it has the least in common with. All these years I spent avoiding the urge to use the hair dryer while lying in the bathtub were all for naught, as I was most certainly about to perish in a freak electrical fire.

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The most redeeming part of the Jeep baptism is probably the impression it makes on those around you that get to witness the event. The look of complete and total pity expressed on the faces of onlookers as they watch you brave the torrential floods must be seen to be believed. A look that could only be outdone by the shock and dismay that their faces would reveal, if they only knew that you were having a blast! I recall on one occasion a fellow in a black luxury sport sedan who pulled up next to me in one such monsoon, partially rolled down his window and made a verbal gesture of his compassion for my plight. “Bad day to own a Jeep! Ain’t it?” he said, to which I replied “No… Thursdays are as good as any day.”

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Of course, there is a flip-side to that coin. Every rose has its thorns; or at least that is the rumor I’ve heard relayed in a song. When it comes to having fun while in a Jeep, water is clearly the magical multiplier. Whether it’s a wide water crossing that runs up to your rocker panels, skirting a majestic waterfall on an isolated backwoods trail or adding equal sums of dirt and water together to make mud- the end result is always the same. Everything you do in a Jeep is “funner” when you add water, but be careful. When you are out wheeling and you add water, things can get really slick really fast! While I don’t mind an occasional struggle for traction, if your adventure has you on any sort of an incline, you will soon be unwillingly finding the shortest route down the mountain; bouncing off anything and everything that is in your path. While this still makes for vast amounts of fun, for those who value pretty painted sheet metal, this can be a real downer. For those Jeepers who are still sending the bank a monthly payment, it’s a downright unacceptable activity to use your Jeep to clear-cut forest land. For that reason, splashing through puddles is the recommended watersport until you have title in hand (with the top off, of course).

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So if you’re out in your topless Jeep and the dark clouds seem to conspire to rain on your parade, don’t despair. It’s just part of your baptism. Sit back, breathe in the air and enjoy it. Most importantly, try not to look too crazy. It’s a Jeep Thing! OlllllllO

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Weighing the Pros & Cons of Insanity

Over the years, I have come to realize that I do my best thinking at night. In that short period of time between lying down and actually falling asleep, I solve some of life’s largest quandaries. To be honest, what I consider to be “my best thinking” is probably substandard to most other people but, at least to me, it’s pure genius-level stuff.

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In stark comparison, I seldom if ever have a lucid thought when I first wake up. At the earliest hint of the first shrill tone from the alarm, my mind is prone to produce such mindless gibberish that I’m left wondering on what occasion I received a head injury. “Where’s the dog!?!!”…”Lefty Loosey” or even “Hello!”, as if answering a phone in my slumber, are some of the first things that come across my mind and therefore cross my lips in mornings earliest seconds. I’ve even been known to grasp desperately at a non-existent handrail, while still comatose, because my mind convinced me I was falling. Trust me…at night time, I am freaking brilliant!

I am currently deeply engaged in the planning of a cross country trek to Toledo, OH for the annual Toledo Jeep Fest in August. And this is not just any trek, but one taken in my 25 year old Jeep. As I laid in bed last night planning what mechanical tasks I needed to address this weekend in preparations for my voyage, it occurred to me that, amongst all the other pertinent planning, I needed to address how my Jeep was going to dress for the trip.

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If you have or have ever had a Jeep, you probably know what I mean. Anytime you take your Jeep out, you have to assess your itinerary and determine the best and most practical set-up for the occasion. If you have a hardtop, most of that decision making is pre-determined for you. Since my YJ is a soft top, I need to ask myself “Do I run the fastback soft top so I have my windows ready in waiting in case the weather goes south or do I roll the dice and don the more-risqué bikini top?” I decide that the fastback top would be the wisest choice and offer the most versatility. See! Nighttime-Me is ridiculously sharp. Isn’t he?

Then my mind progresses to the subject of doors. Do I mount up my half doors to the Jeep with a plan to then store the uppers in the rear cargo area when the weather permits or do I just leave home without any doors at all? I can even store the doors in the hotel room for short jaunts without doors. Or, do I drive half a dozen states away from my home with no means of protecting myself and my vehicles occupants from the elements during what might be one of the hottest Augusts in recent memory? Why, of course I do. Wait…what??

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I think if my wife was accompanying me on this trip, I would have to give the topic of going door-less for 1,300 miles some more intense thought. Bottom line is that I’m taking my teenage son and I love the open-air Jeep lifestyle as much or maybe more than anyone. Face it! I’m never gonna be able to tell my son about walking to school, ten miles each way, uphill in the snow. I need him to remember that time we drove across the country in a Jeep for no reason other than we could. And, worse yet, we wanted to! My exhausted and heavy-eyed self could not pose a single counterpoint as to why I would complete this trip in anything other than true Jeep fashion. Limited top and no doors!

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I hope, beg and pray that you will follow me along my journey beginning on August 8th, 2018 as we make our way to Toledo, the birthplace of Jeep. We’ll be posting pictures from the road and sharing the experience on our Rugged Ridge Facebook page and at YourJeepYourAdventure.com . We hope to see you then! OlllllllO

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How Old Is Your Jeep In Dog Years?

It’s pretty common knowledge that a dog ages quicker than people do. What is also commonly perceived is that one year for a dog is the equivalent to seven human years, which is a bit of a misconception. The very first year a canine is alive, it undergoes significant development and actually matures at a rate equivalent to 15 human years. The following second year of life, the dog ages around 12 years and declines a little each year thereafter. I guess the seven years is a bit of a mean average across a dogs suspected lifespan.

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I think that Jeeps, in general, have a somewhat similar aging pattern to that of a dog, but in reverse. The first year on the road for a new Jeep is equivalent to an actual year, taking for granted that the proper maintenance program is upheld and the mileage is kept to a civil rate. The new Jeep maintains its year-for-year rate of aging for the first few years of its life; until the day the Jeep owner’s curiosity for the unknown has them wandering away from the pavement and searching to discover a little more about their vehicles capabilities. On that day, the clock is quickened to double its original pace. Whether in the first year or the fifth, the Jeep begins to age at a rate of two years per year, once it has adopted the tendency for off-road driving habits.

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As the vehicle ages and compiles mileage, the wear and tear on the frame, chassis and mechanical components begins to compound. By the time the vehicle has reached 100,000 miles, or seven calendar years old, its rate of aging is around 3 years per year. That’s six years per if you’re busy climbing rock ledges or straddling crevasses on a regular basis. At this point, you’ll find yourself performing repairs at almost every turn. This aggressive schedule of addressing issues as they appear is the only thing that stabilizes your Jeeps rapid pattern of mechanical decline. Short of a complete overhaul and major rebuild, your Jeep will continue to age at a rate of 3 to 6 years for every New Year that passes, until that day when its fate is finally sealed.

My personal Jeep is a 1993 model which I bought in 2007. The first 14 years of its life, it was kept almost entirely stock and was fitted with highway tires that would turn utterly useless in the mud. It had compiled some 120,000 miles on the clock in its first dozen or so years. The 11 years that I have owned it, the old YJ has been plagued with massive tires, lift kits, heavy bumpers and tons of less-than-ideal driving conditions while enrolled in an extensive program of perpetual upgrade. By my calculations, my Jeep would be roughly 60 years old in dog years, and that’s if I grade on the curve. 60…That’s a pretty startling number when you stop and think about it; bottom line and best case scenario, it’s truly 25 years old on a regular Gregorian calendar making it an antique in the states opinion. Maybe sixty is not that outlandish…

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So for my YJ’s true 25th birthday, I am going to defy the odds, throw the proverbial caution to the wind and embark on a trek to the place it was born, Toledo, Ohio, and attend the Toledo Jeep Fest in August. In careful consideration for its propsed 60 years of age and the 1,400 grueling miles that lie ahead of it, I am undertaking massive amounts of maintenance on the old Wrangler in preparation for hours of driving at highway speeds. This includes touching virtually every suspension component to validate its integrity, replacing aging seals and bearings, renewing fluids and lubricants; maybe even a few cosmetic upgrades will be in order so my baby doesn’t necessarily look like an over-the-hill has-been. I’ve been around cars long enough to know that, even with the best of preparations in place, the likelihood of some level of catastrophe occurring is pretty favorable. With such impending doom, it’s understandable that I simply can’t wait…

To help document my voyage, we’ll be posting pictures from the road featuring sights and scenery from our travels and blogging a bit about the experience as we go. I am very hopeful that none of the coverage will feature dripping fluids, shredded tire carcasses or billowing plumes of smoke or steam. That seems about as likely as taking a trip to the zoo and hoping to not smell any unpleasantries…or you could say, pretty darn unlikely.

Our trip will begin on Wednesday, August 8th and we’ll share all the fun from the Toledo Jeep Fest when we arrive on Friday, August 10th and through the entire weekend. Make sure to follow the adventure on the Rugged Ridge Facebook page as well as at yourjeepyouradventure.com . We hope you can follow along! OlllllllO

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Identifying One Man’s Goodness as Greatness

It was with considerable sadness that we learned a few weeks back of the passing of our longtime friend and company spokesperson R. Lee Ermey, or as he was better and more affectionately known, The Gunny.

1The Gunny was, of all things, a movie star. It’s a little bit hard to see how a man who has made a name for himself by acting in movies could be held in such high regard by so many. Let’s face it – Ermey’s role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket may have been his defining role and anyone who has seen it would have to agree. His performance likely left you blushing a little bit and certainly breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of attending boot camp. Despite his sheer brilliance, that is not to say that this role defined The Gunny at all. He was remembered for his acting but he was only truly defined by his character.

It’s impossible, at times like this, to begin to gauge how much his presence will be missed. For anyone that ever had the privilege to meet the man in person, the experience could only be described as an honor. Gunny had a knack for making each and every person he met feel like they were important to him and, in some little way, I believe they sincerely were. His fans and supporters meant everything to him.

For those who never really had the opportunity to get to know him, the Gunny could best be described as a man that loved his country and his value for those who made it their job to defend her was beyond measure. He loved his family, he enjoyed his collection of firearms and his old Jeep, which he was quick to tell you was nothing fancy- just the way he liked it.

Part of our company’s relationship with The Gunny was his ongoing appearances, on our behalf, in the Rugged Ridge Off-Road Success Center at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas each fall. Despite being in his 70’s, Ermey would tirelessly tend to a never-ending line of fans and admirers for hour after hour and for days on end. Surrounded by military Jeeps and waves of adoring fans, never demanding a break from his post or neglecting to greet every face with a confident smile and a firm handshake. He always seemed to bubble with enthusiasm when one of his more dedicated groupies would beg to be called “maggot” or “scumbag” in that unmistakable stern tone they’d grown to revere. He would never decline and his followers couldn’t get enough.

And then there was the sweet lady who jumped into the line to meet The Gunny at the last minute, right as we were closing down for the day. She knew him, of course, from his role in Full Metal Jacket and was anxious to actually meet him. As we stood there and made conversation during her wait, I mentioned that she should tell The Gunny that she loved him in his role as the Sherriff in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She clearly was not familiar with this obscure role, as most people aren’t. Take my word, this was by all accounts one of the most-vile characters anyone could ever imagine. Fortunately, she was trusting enough and wanted to make a real impression during her brief interaction with him. When she finally reached the front of the que, she delivered her prompted line so well that The Gunny froze, slowly looked up and stared back at her with a look so aghast, as though he might just run for the exit. It was though he could not fathom a female that would find anything appealing in such a despicable role; nonetheless, she was standing in front of him. Impression made!

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My own personal observations of R Lee Ermey in the times I was fortunate enough to be around him made a pretty deep impression on me too. The Gunny had given so much of his time over the years lending support to law enforcement and giving of himself for our military troops, that it was very common for fans to show up and spend an hour waiting in line to share just a few moments with him, often holding old pictures of themselves with The Gunny. Photos from a time past when they were stationed overseas or serving on a military base in some bleached-out desert somewhere and The Gunny was there for them. Two soldiers who, despite being world’s apart, shared common values and a mutual respect for the sacrifices each has made for the good of others. The Gunny truly got it and he wanted every soldier to know it.

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Ermey’s longtime manager and friend Bill Rogin borrowed from the U.S. Marine Corps Rifleman’s Creed as a written tribute to a man who clearly established himself in a class all his own: “There are many Gunny’s, but this one was OURS. And, we will honor his memory with hope and kindness. Please support your men and women in uniform. That’s what he wanted most of all.”

Semper Fi, Gunny

Godspeed

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The Fine Art of Computer-Assisted Time Wasting

Have you ever seen the children’s book series entitled “Where’s Waldo?”. The premise of the books is over-illustrated pages of mind-boggling artistic detail in which the reader is supposed to scour the colorful artwork in search of the books namesake Waldo, an odd French-looking fellow with a red & white striped shirt and coke-bottle glasses. The task of finding this whimsical character proves to be so eye-straining that I fail to see where the actual enjoyment lies. I usually end up slamming the book shut in frustration and mumbling ill sentiments about this Waldo guy, wherever he is.

But I recently had a revelation while utilizing Google Maps to map out a local wheeling trip. As I scrolled my wireless mouse along the low-res images of miles of back-country Georgia roadway looking for a landmark with which to demark an important side road turn-off, I saw it… a bright red 2-door TJ Rubicon in all of its pixelated glory. Complete with a mild lift and a winch!

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It occurred to me that I was quite possibly on to something and this something could be big. A pasttime for the ages in which one could drive around a virtual world, as captured by Google’s odd little camera cars, and look for random Jeeps, or maybe even Waldo’s Jeep if he were to have one. However, I think Waldo might actually drive a little Fiat 500 convertible or maybe a bicycle with a sissy bar and a basket. Since a retro-themed game is three times as likely to succeed as a completely original game title, I decided to call my new online endeavors “Where’s Waldo’s Jeep?”.2I have to admit that the game and it’s subtle intracacies do not makie it the obvious choice for scientists or people of higher intellectual stature. But if you’re like me and love driving around town spotting Jeeps in traffic and calling them out by their 2-letter designations, you might just find some satisfaction playing “Where’s Waldo’s Jeep?”. And with that, it was time to head to Moab!

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Of course, it didn’t take long to find a jacked-up YJ cruising the town with nothing but a bikini top and a set of balding mud-terrains. Although I can’t make out the text across his windshield, I suspect it says “As Seen On Where’s Waldo’s Jeep”.

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While out west, a short stop in Buffalo, Wyoming yielded this burnt orange JK Unlimited Rubicon parked outside of some random business, possibly a Bank & Trust or a General Merchantile, as they both seem to abound in the old west. With this rig sporting completely stock attire except for an aftermarket bull bar across the front bumper, it makes me ponder whether I should develop some sort of points systems where highly-modified Jeeps can accumulate a higher points value than a bone-stock vehicle. Or vice-versa?

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This Firecracker Red 2-Door cruising the Pacific Coast Highway with the hardtop ON is a true tragedy and honestly nearly drove me to abandon this game and it’s further development entirely. I amagaed to regain my composure and press on to my next destination.

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Stuck in downtown traffic in Haltom City, Texas is where I spotted this nicely modified JK. It’s really hot in Texas so maybe the closed roof is just so that he doesn’t suffer a severely scorched scalp.

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Ooops….that’s a rusty Geo Tracker in Lincoln, Nebraska. That AIN’T no Jeep!

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A blue Wrangler JK in Peoria, Illinois, once again with the hardtop firmly intact. Maybe there needs to be bonus points when you find soft tops or no tops at all. Or any Jeep spotted anywhere in Alaska for that matter. I even looked around four-wheel drive shops in the booming metropolis of Anchorage but still found nothing! I will assume the fact that soft top windows crack like candy glass in cold climates might be at the root of this rarity. I’m not done searching the great white North for a Jeep although I am convinced that they’re hiding way up in the mountains with the yetis.

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No bonus points for a hardtop TJ in Minneapolis, Minnesota but since it is parked in what might possibly be a high crime area, we will pardon this indiscretion.

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This 4-Door JK does have a soft top… BONUS!!! And it’s a fastback-style so that’s extra good. Pretty nice rig wheeling the pavement of Oklahoma City, OK. On a side note: If your vehicle is gonna be featured in a world-reknowned navigational app, you’ve gotta replace that passenger side turn signal bulb.

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Yet another soft top chilling curbside in Niagara Falls, NY. We’re in the Northeast so we might as well swing by the factory in Toledo, Ohio and see where they’re made. Lots packed full of newborn JK’s with no miles doesn’t hold the same thrill as seeing them out in their natural habitat.

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Admittedly, finding Jeeps in the parking lot at the manufacturing plant is much like shooting fish in a barrel; finding them wherever they roam is where the purest thrill is found. Like crossing a bridge in North Bend, Oregon or looking adventurous in full trail gear near the Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe, CA.

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So go to your computer or laptop and log-on to Google Maps, switch to satellite maps and zoom down to the street view to see what you can find and, most importantly, have fun! It’s a tremendous day when your great Jeep adventures never have to end. OlllllllO152106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

If I Say Work Load Limit and You Say Breaking Strength, Who’s Right?

When it comes to off-road recovery gear, there has always been a bit of a dispute when it comes to weight ratings and making sure you match the components in your gear bag to the potential use that they are lying in wait to fulfill.

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To begin to wrap our minds around the issue at hand, it’s vital to understand the terms and what they actually mean. If you went to buy a new car and the bold MPG numbers on the window sticker were in the single digits, you would be wise move along to some other dealership, wouldn’t you? But what if you thought that a lower number was actually preferred, like in a golf score? Could such confusion be the root of how our highways have become congested with massive fuel-guzzling SUV’s? We just didn’t know any better…right?

You will likely see two different terms commonly tossed around when shopping for shackles, straps and recovery appliances today. The first one is “Breaking Strength” which, admittedly, sounds about as cool as a term possibly can. Doesn’t it? This number is usually a gargantuan figure with tons of zeroes and it’s easy to be swept away by the size of the number when positioned next to a word like strength. The Breaking Strength can be defined as the average force at which any given product, in brand new condition, has been found to break when a constant and ever-increasing force is applied to it in a direct line and at a uniform rate of speed. Essentially, it’s a number arrived at in a testing laboratory under strict conditions; a number whose actual existence outside of that laboratory is highly unlikely.

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I like to think of the term Breaking Strength in a slightly different fashion that helps put its value in perspective. I’m reminded of a story I read once about a Soviet airman during World War II named Ivan Chisov. While embroiled in a heated and volatile air battle with German forces, Ivan’s bomber took on heavy damage. While disaster for the crew seemed imminent, Chisov knew that parachuting from the failing aircraft while in the midst of an intense aerial dogfight would give the German fighters a slowly descending target at which to take aim, making him an unwilling sitting duck. For that reason, Ivan exited the plane and rocketed towards earth, chute unopened, waiting until he was well-clear of the fray to deploy his chute and slow his descent. Ahhh…the beauty found in such a calculated plan!

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Contrary to his crafty plan, falling at nearly 150 miles per hour unfortunately caused Chisov to black out completely, making him a less-than-likely candidate to execute the timely pull of the ripcord, as his hastily-made plan required. Henceforth, falling from an altitude of more than 22,000 feet with nothing more to break his fall than the clothes he had on and the snowy bank resting below seemed a certain and fatal end. Somehow, despite insurmountable odds, Ivan Chisov survived the fall and lived to fly again, only months later, after recovering from his slew of injuries.

While Ivan’s story is pretty remarkable, it stands to show that amazing things can happen when the conditions are just right. It goes without saying that the Russian Air Force did not revise their training manuals based ON Ivan’s experience to show that a standard airman can survive a fall from 20,000 feet due to their incredible inherent breaking strength, although in certain scenarios under precise conditions it is somehow possible. It is certainly NOT the rule and to count on it as such would be a first step in the wrong direction.

That’s where the WLL, or Working Load Limit, comes into the picture. When defined, the WLL is the maximum load which should ever be applied to the product, even when the item is new, with uncompromised integrity and the load is uniformly applied. When the WLL is applied to any scenario, it introduces a factor of safety into the equation so that the margin for an accidental failure of equipment is virtually eliminated. For that reason, the WLL is usually 1/3 of the products breaking strength. This introduces a little bit of breathing room into the equation; accounting for things that are not as ideal as the laboratory conditions. Things like the resistance of the aired-down tires, the tree that is 25 degrees to the right of the vehicle instead of perfectly inline or the D-shackle that might have tumbled out of the tailgate a time or two in the past.

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Since the Working Load Limit is still founded on a straight line pull scenario, it is of vital importance that every effort is made to abide by this standard when rigging for vehicle recovery. This standard would make necessary a variety of items to suit the wide array of scenarios one would encounter on the trail: straps, shackles, pulleys, snatch blocks and the list goes on. Much like playing Red Rover in grade school, your recovery chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you are wheeling in a newer Wrangler JK Unlimited, you need to know the weight of the vehicle is around 5,000 pounds and then plan your gear accordingly.

In the same breath, don’t outfit your recovery gear for your JK 4-Door and then think you can safely snatch a stray ditch-bound semi out on the way home. You’ll need some superhero-grade powers or an advanced Engineering degree…or both. Even if your snatch strap is rated for 10 million tons, the trailer hitch you hook it to is not even close to being up to the task. The importance of sizing up the task and assembling appropriate gear to accomplish it safely is critical; otherwise, we don’t jump out of the plane.5Bottom line? Consider a products breaking strength as a “good to know” while keeping the WLL as the number to count on. Prepare for any possibility, plan for every situation but always make sure safety is the tool you rely on most often. Keeping all your recovery gear in good working order is as important as selecting the right gear that is rated adequately for the job at hand will help insure a safe and rewarding wheeling experience. OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

The Name’s Bessie…With a Little Heart Over the ‘I’

I’ve noticed an alarming trend over the past few years. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with “it” but, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s a fad that bothers me more deeply than I should admit to. What is the popular trend that I’m referencing, you ask? It’s the practice of naming your Jeep. There! I said it!!

1One of my earliest automotive memories was of my dear mother calling our car by name. Not talking to it like a member of the family or even an acquaintance as that might be insane. I can only remember her resorting to vehicular name-calling when things weren’t going pleasingly. When the turn of the ignition was met by labored sounds of a dying battery, she would mutter “C’mon Bessie” between consecutive pulses of the throttle pedal chased by turns of the key. Always calm as if coaxing Bessie to life hinged on this very personal utterance.

 

I can’t remember her ever referring to the car by name on any other sort of occasions. Never did I hear say “Go get in Bessie, kids! We’re going to the package store”- never…not once. She would, however, cheer on Bessie enthusiastically whenever climbing a steep grade that proved burdensome. Never did she comment to my Dad that Bessie was filthy and due a good cleaning. “Bessie” was only used in second-person dialog exclusively and always somewhat impersonally. In fact, I’m fairly certain that my mom used the same moniker of Bessie regardless of what car she was addressing. Whether it was the old VW Beetle, the ’84 Bonneville or any of my father’s vast collection of pickups he owned over the years- the name Bessie was always a constant. One could argue that a classic German model like the old Volkswagen might be more appropriately named with a label that points to its …maybe Ingrid or Helga. While a crude pickup might pass for a “Big Red” or “Ol’ Blue”. And yet Bessie still prevailed.

So what purpose does someone have in naming their vehicles today? I have a strong feeling that cars or, more importantly, Jeeps are given names as a means of expressing a close relationship between driver and carriage. I’ll admit that it does make sense to me that a person would desire to apply a name to an object that occupies so much of their life that it becomes a part of the family. Add to that the fact that I strongly object to calling a Jeep merely an object and I find myself pondering the possibility of beginning a search for a suitable name for my own Jeep. But not really.

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I do think that it would be cool to have a nickname for a car at those times when you take the vehicle in for service. Filling out the shop’s paperwork with only the Jeeps nickname and then requesting you be paged when it’s ready could be quite entertaining, especially if you choose the name carefully. Watching the looks on fellow customers faces as the intercom shamelessly announces “’Nobody’s Business’, Your car is ready” ranks fairly high on the fun scale. Maybe not as fun as having the neighborhood kids help search for your lost dog, who just happens to be named “Poopie”, but still pretty fun.

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We’ve established a questionably firm foundation for giving your beloved Jeep a name but that only brings me to another problem that is not so easily overcome. Why would anyone go on a public forum, such as social media venue like Facebook, and plead with a group of total strangers to assist with the naming of their own Jeep? How is it that this makes any sort of sense?? A creative consensus has never been reached before this day, which means you’re really just volunteering to be endlessly bombarded with horrible name suggestions, everything from nursery rhyme references to obscure movie taglines and everything in between. Nothing original or fitting, at least not in the eyes of those who have fully evolved.

I wrestle with the warped ideals of a person who entertains the thought of bestowing the privilege of choosing a proper nickname for their Jeep to a total unknown, possibly even the likes of a transient or no-account drifter. Is this the type of individual who would also toy with the thought of allowing their own human offspring to be so titled by strangers, Tweeting out from tense confines of the labor & delivery room asking for sir name suggestions for Junior? Is this how we end up with kids named Moon-Unit or Glitter?? Seems pretty likely to me. Who else would find it acceptable to name their children after compass coordinates?

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I would encourage anyone who fancies the idea of giving their Jeep a name to give the concept its due diligence and don’t just resort to soliciting the absurd input of outsiders. If you are unable to compile a list of at least a handful of potential candidates from which to choose, based on color or appearance, then maybe referring to your Jeep as just a Jeep seems a reasonable alternative; at least until the perfect name reveals itself to you in a fever dream or through an other-worldly voice speaking to you from beyond. It’s then and only then that you will know the perfect name for your beloved Jeep.

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And with such supernatural powers combining to reveal that perfect name to you, you’ll want to have special vinyl graphics crafted and tastefully installed on your hood and/or windshield; possibly even have your local tag office stamp your pride & joy a special vanity plate for all to see, so long as your chosen tagline is not considered potty-talk. The clerk at the tag office might not catch it but you can bet that your local peace officers will. Having your Jeeps name proudly displayed will help other motorists gain some sense of the admiration you hold for your Jeep. I can almost hear them muttering it as you drive by them in all your grandeur. “Hey…Look! There goes Dirty Girl!!” OlllllllO

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“Seems Like There Is Always a Hitch”

There are a handful of television program on any one of the hundreds of semi-useless channels on your satellite or cable lineup that fail to deliver on their given title. “Finding Bigfoot”, however entertaining it might be, has never actually seen a legitimate sasquatch, much less had any deeper level of engagement with one that c1ould be deemed as “finding”. They’ve certainly never coaxed one into the bed of the rust-stricken dually and toted it home to show the better half. Heck, the entire premise of “Dancing with the Stars” would lead a viewer to believe that the old soft-shoe would be glamorously displayed for us by actual identifiable superstars, rather than some lesser breed of reality show outcast or Hollywood ne’er-do-well breathing heavily and sweating profusely. It seems as though the title is quite commonly not an accurate description of what one can expect to observe.

Have you ever noticed that just about every Jeep you see is equipped with a trailer hitch? Even if not so equipped from the factory, the price of an aftermarket hitch is so minimal that adding one is a virtual no-brainer. Yet, how many of these Jeeps are ever tasked with towing a trailer? I would guess-timate less than 25% of the hitches mounted on Jeeps are ever used for pulling a trailer of any type, maybe even less. Two-door Jeep’s short wheelbase makes pulling a trailer a hair-raising venture at highway speeds while four-door models are often too under-powered for pulling any significant weight, especially on a grade. So what’s the payoff for hauling around the extra weight of a sturdy steel hitch, enduring the reduced departure angles and the constant threat to your tender shins?

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As it turns out, there are plenty of valid purposes for that rear-mounted hitch outside the confines of pulling a trailer. One that I have used on numerous occasions is to increase your Jeeps cargo carrying capacity with the addition of a cargo rack. In seconds, you can add a couple of hundred pounds of payload without sacrificing precious interior space. It’s a must-have for almost any outdoor excursion or a run to the home improvement store. http://www.omix-ada.com/receiver-rack-20-inches-x-60-inches.html

3Another practical use of a trailer hitch is to equip it to serve as a recovery point with the addition of a D-Shackle. While this might not appeal as much to a Jeep owner who stays primarily on the paved roads, the uses can extend well beyond those off-road scenarios. Using the hitch to pull shrubs out of the ground and other landscaping jobs are tailor-made for such a set-up. And then there’s an all-too-often ignored art form called
“Brute Force Lumberjacking” that begs for further exploration. Plus, it just looks cool! http://www.omix-ada.com/receiver-hitch-d-shackle-assembly.html

Maybe the practical and understated is not what you’re all about. If so, consider making a real visual spectacle with a Giga Hook. It has all the same pulling practicality as the D-shackle mount without any of the subtlety. It’s big. It’s strong. It’s a friggin’ gigantic hook. See for yourself- http://www.ruggedridge.com/giga-hook-black-2-inch-receiver-11237-20.html

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If your rig is one that actually spends any time on the trails, your hitch could really stand for a handy upgrade like this one. While there is no replacement for being resourceful when you go off-roading, it sure is nice to have the equipment on hand that makes the inevitable mechanical misfortune more manageable. If you have ever tried to replace a broken universal joint on the trail like a caveman, with stones and sockets, you can truly value the worth of having a press while in such a situation. But a press is in a shop or garage…definitely not on a Jeep. Hence the rocks and bloody knuckles.

That’s where the Mac’s Trail D-Vise proves invaluable. A simple and sturdy hitch-mounted vise provides the ability to press bearing caps, clamp suspension components for welding and any other mechanical wizardry you can muster.

Its simple design doesn’t incorporate a lot of excess materials or bulk, for overall lighter weight, and includes an onboard handle suitable for smaller jobs. For those major repairs, the vise works with standard sockets or a tire tool for greater leverage and maximum grip. Rumor has it that there is even a bottle opener built into the design- seems as though they’ve thought of almost everything. Check it out at http://www.macscustomtiedowns.com/product/TrailD-Vise/trail-d-vise

   Depending on your particular pastime of choice, there are any number of attachments and accessories for trailer hitches that can suit your needs; for everything from hauling bicycles to stowing snow skis. Putting that dormant trailer hitch to good use will help you get the most from your Jeep and help prepare you for that next adventure. OlllllllO

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